The aim of this study was to assess the dietary intake of nitrate and nitrite in Belgium. The nitrate content of processed vegetables, cheeses and meat products was analysed. These data were completed by data from non-targeted official control and from the literature. In addition, the nitrite content of meat products was measured. Concentration data for nitrate and nitrite were linked to food consumption data of the Belgian Food Consumption Survey. This study included 3245 respondents, aged 15 years and older. Food intakes were estimated by a repeated 24-h recall using EPIC-SOFT. Only respondents with two completed 24-h recalls (n=3083) were included in the analysis. For the intake assessment, average concentration data and individual consumption data were combined. Usual intake of nitrate/nitrite was calculated using the Nusser method. The mean usual daily intake of nitrate was 1.38 mg kg(-1) bodyweight (bw) day(-1) and the usual daily intake at the 97.5 percentile was 2.76 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1). Exposure of the Belgian population to nitrate at a mean intake corresponded to 38% of the ADI (while 76% at the 97.5 percentile). For the average consumer, half of the intake was derived from vegetables (especially lettuce) and 20% from water and water-based drinks. The average daily intake of nitrate and nitrite from cheese and meat products was low (0.2% and 6% of the ADI at average intake, respectively). Scenario analyses with a higher consumption of vegetables or a higher nitrate concentration in tap water showed a significant higher intake of nitrate. Whether this is beneficial or harmful must be further assessed.
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